Moldova's Democratic Party (PDM) says Prime Minister Pavel Filip's government is resigning, signaling that a standoff with an incoming coalition cabinet is coming to an end.
Vladimir Cebotari, vice president of PDM, announced the decision at a news conference in Chisinau on June 14.
He said PDM decided to stand down in an effort to resolve the weeklong political crisis that pitted the party against a coalition between the ACUM pro-EU alliance and the pro-Russian Socialist Party following months of political limbo caused by an inconclusive parliamentary election.
'We are stepping down in order to avoid an escalation that could lead to violence,' Cebotari said.
After the February elections resulted in a hung legislature, Moldova's Constitutional Court on June 7 ordered the dissolution of parliament and ordered new elections to be held.
The basis of the ruling was a Moldovan law that requires a government to be formed within three months of the certification of election results.
But on June 8, parliamentary leaders from President Igor Dodon's Socialist Party struck a surprise deal with ACUM.
The new alliance, which controls 61 of the 101 seats in parliament, announced its goal was to remove Filip's government from power.
The alliance accused the court of misinterpreting the constitution and annulling the previous election results after 90 days instead of three months.
It also voted to approve a new government led by one of ACUM's leaders, Maia Sandu.
But the court responded on June 9 by declaring Sandu's government unconstitutional and suspending Dodon, the former leader of the Socialist Party.
Filip then stepped in as interim president, immediately dissolving the parliament and calling for snap elections on September 6.
Critics have said the court is under the thumb of PDM leader Vladimir Plahotniuc, a controversial tycoon who controls numerous businesses and a media empire, and who is accused by some of running Moldova from the shadows.
After both governments claimed power for the past week, PDM said its decision to step down 'will partially solve the political gridlock and is now a clear signal that PDM is not clinging to power.'
But Cebotari warned that the move 'will by no means solve the legal and institutional gridlock.'
'Under these circumstances, the task of legally assuming governmental power must be solved by the PSRM-ACUM binomial [coalition],' Cebotari said.
Sandu voiced hope that PDM's decision to concede defeat was 'sincere,' but she also called for the resignation of the court and the country's prosecutor-general.
'I have a message to the entire world: Moldova is finally free,' Sandu said. 'And we would like to thank everybody who helped us in these difficult times.'
Earlier on June 14, Sandu told RFE/RL that a march by ACUM supporters scheduled for June 16 was not a protest, but a show of 'support of democratic processes, a march in support of the recently elected government. This march will be a powerful signal to the [other cabinet] that its time is over.'
It was not immediately clear whether the march will proceed after Cebotari's announcement.
The United States, the European Union, and NATO have urged both sides to show restraint.
Brussels did not explicitly endorse the new government but said, 'the European Union stands ready to work with the democratically legitimate government.'
Meanwhile, Russia welcomed the deal, with President Vladimir Putin saying on June 13 that the Kremlin 'will keep supporting President Dodon and his present-day coalition partners.'
Putin, apparently targeting Plahotniuc, charged that 'power in Moldova' was 'actually usurped by oligarchic structures, oligarchs, who forcibly took over all state structures, absolutely everything --- law enforcement, the parliament, etc. In other words, they made money on the Moldovan people and used [the money] to strengthen their personal fortunes and leverage on the state.'
However, the support shown for the new coalition by Russia, which still has more than 1,000 troops stationed in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester, has been received with suspicion by those wary of Moscow's intentions in the former Soviet republic.
Sandu herself admitted that her ACUM bloc's alliance with the pro-Russia Socialists was unusual.
'This is not a natural alliance. There is no question about it, and probably half a year ago nobody would have said that this could happen,' she told Reuters.
Plahotniuc made no statement after PDM's resignation and his whereabouts remains unknown.
Moldovan media reported that shortly after Cebotari's announcement, five chartered planes took off from the Chisinau airport. The planes were headed for Moscow, London, and Odesa, the reports said.
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